Poland’s Gdansk Shipyard — where once the Solidarity trade union movement fought to bring down the communist regime — is now a shadow of its former self and a site of irony.
Alongside the big ships they still built a few of here, a French company — Sunreef — is making luxury yachts, catamarans using the latest technology which sell for over one million euros each.
It rents space in the shipyard which went bankrupt in the 1990s shedding tens of thousands of workers.
Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, the workers’ hero who went on to be president of Poland, has even been back to where he inspired hope
Sunreef’s co-founder Francis Lapp says there are few still around from the time: “The people who worked here under communism in the 80s, it’s now 20 years later, and they have all retired. Indeed not that long ago, last year, I invited Lech Walesa on to one of our boats with a client and Walesa was very happy that there are companies that are restarting work in the Gdansk shipyards.”
The yacht builder is just one of a number of private firms leasing workspace at the shipyard which is now Ukrainian owned and employs fewer than 10 percent of the workers it once did.